Saturday, February 09, 2008

did I ever mention...

That I have a nephew who did some time in Iraq?

He's an interesting kid, mid-20's. Divorced with a little one. Short and skinny. Goofy and gangly. A bit of attention deficit going on. And just a tad bit slow on the uptake, but not really noticeable unless it's detail stuff.

He signed on 'cause they'd promised him he could go to school to learn auto mechanics and work in
the mechanic pool while there. He wanted to work on tanks and helicopters. But once he signed on, they sent him over on active duty. Where he rode in a tank instead of fixing them. And he did see battle.

He came back home about a year ago and had multiple problems. Couldn't keep a job, couldn't focus, and I think there was some drug use, which hadn't been a problem for him prior. It was clearly PTSD, but he was getting no help from vet's services.

He was on a few wait lists, but his name hadn't come up yet when he blew it all to hell and robbed some guy, breaking and entering his home, and stealing a gun along with money, which made the charges even worse. He was sentenced to 7 years in the toughest state pen in Washington State.

And believe it or not, that's when he got lucky. 'Cause he was assigned to a mental health professional while there. And the counselor not only is helping him through the PTSD, and has him on medication, but she's even managed to get the sentences for some of the charges reduced to time already served, which reduced his total sentence by half. And he'll be transerred to a less horrible facility closer to home soon, too, so that family can visit.

Some of his stories are finally coming out with therapy, too, and he's posting them on his my sp*ce account occasionally. Like his first action. They were fighting, in a town, and came running around a corner and right into a group of 'the enemy.' It was kill or be killed, and he froze. But he didn't freeze before shooting. No, he hit the trigger and then freaked, unloading his gun into the guy in front of him and still pulling the trigger when the gun was empty.

It was so bad, he said, that he did something stupid to get himself a dishonorable discharge while he was back in the states. They wouldn't let him out, were going to send him back again, and there was no way, he said, he'd go back. Neither he nor anyone else is talking about what he did. And I'm not about to judge him.

The rugrat keeps tabs on him, and sends him an occasional card or letter. He was such a sweet, goofy kid when I left Washington ten years ago. I just can't picture the him-here-and-now in my mind.



(photo is the inside ceiling of the Capital building dome, taken in august 2004)

1 comment:

Dean said...

This is a tragedy...the kind a lot of the people blinded by waving flags and deafened by empty slogans remain happily (and purposefully) unaware.

Everyone wants to hear a war story. No one wants to hear a coming home story.

It's a shame and a stain on this nation's reputation that the only place he could get the kind of help he needed was in prison.